The multiple award-winning Best New Horror series enters its second decade as the premier annual showcasing excellence in contemporary dark fantasy and the macabre.
As usual, acclaimed horror anthologist Stephen Jones has chosen the finest short stories and novellas of supernatural and psychological fiction. With the most comprehensive review of the year, useful contact lists, and a fascinating necrology as a bonus, this is one book that every horror fan must have.
|Publisher:||Little, Brown Book Group|
|Sold by:||Hachette Digital, Inc.|
|File size:||690 KB|
About the Author
Stephen Jones is the winner of three World Fantasy Awards, four Horror Writers Association Bram Stoker Awards and three International Horror Guild Awards, as well as being a multiple recipient of the British Fantasy Award and a Hugo Award nominee.
A former television producer/director and genre movie publicist and consultant, he has written and edited more than 130 books, including the Fearie Tales: Stories of the Grimm and Gruesome, A Book of Horrors, Curious Warnings: The Great Ghost Stories of M.R. James, Psycho-Mania! and The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror and Zombie Apocalypse! series.
Read an Excerpt
STEVE RASNIC TEM
Steve Rasnic Tem has had more than 250 short stories published in such magazines and anthologies as Fantasy Tales, Weirdbook, Whispers, Twilight Zone, Crimewave, The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, The Third Alternative, New Terrors 1, Shadows, Cutting Edge, Dark at Heart, Forbidden Acts, MetaHorror, Dark Terrors 3, Horrors! 365 Scary Stories, White of the Moon, The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror and previous volumes of the Best New Horror. A collection entitled Ombres sur la Route appeared in France several years ago, and he won the 1988 British Fantasy Award for his story "Leaks". He lives in Denver, Colorado, with his wife, horror author Melanie Tem. They have four children and three grandchildren.
About the following story (which will serve as the title tale in a new German-language collection), the author reveals: "I've always had a thing for Halloween stories having published over a half dozen of them so far. Perhaps because it is the one time of the year that even conservative, repressed types celebrate, the dark side. Certainly it's become commercialized, and kids and adults running around in scary masks no doubt have little or no understanding of the deeper meanings of the figures they are emulating, but to my mind that only heightens the frisson. We wear masks of monsters and the dying while hiding from ourselves that we are, indeed, monsters and dying. We're a funny old race."
HALLOWEEN STREET. No one could remember who hadfirst given it that name. It had no other. There was no street sign, had never been a street sign.
Halloween Street bordered the creek, and there was only one way to get there over a rickety bridge of rotting wood. Grey timbers had worn partway through the vague red stain. The city had declared it safe only for foot or bike traffic.
The street had only eight houses, and no one could remember more than three of those being occupied at any one time. Renters never lasted long.
It was a perfect place to take other kids the smaller ones, or the ones a little more nervous than yourself on Halloween night. Just to give them a little scare, Just to get them to wet their pants.
Most of the time all the houses stayed empty. An old lady had supposedly lived in one of the houses for years, but no one knew anything more about her, except that they thought she'd died there several years before. Elderly twin brothers had once owned the two centre houses, each with twin high-peaked gables on the second storey like skeptical eyebrows, narrow front doors, and small windows that froze over every winter. The brothers had lived there only six months, fighting loudly with each other the entire time.
The houses at the ends of the street were in the worst shape, missing most of their roof shingles and sloughing off paint chips the way a tree sheds leaves. Both houses leaned toward the centre of the block, as if two great hands had attempted to squeeze the block from either side. Another three houses had suffered outside fire damage. The blackened boards looked like permanent, arbitrary shadows.
But it was the eighth house that bothered the kids the most. There was nothing wrong with it.
It was the kind of house any of them would have liked to live in. Painted bright white like a dairy so that it glowed even at night, with wide friendly windows and a bright blue roof.
And flowers that grew naturally and a lawn seemingly immune to weeds.
Who took care of it? It just didn't make any sense. Even when the kids guided newcomers over to Halloween Street they stayed away from the white house.
* * *
The little girl's name was Laura, and she lived across the creek from Halloween Street. From her bedroom window she could see all the houses. She could see who went there and she could see everything they did. She didn't stop to analyze, or pass judgements. She merely witnessed, and now and then spoke an almost inaudible "Hi" to her window and to those visiting on the other side. An occasional "Hi" to the houses of Halloween Street.
Laura should have been pretty. She had wispy blonde hair so pale it appeared white in most light, worn long down her back. She had small lips and hands that were like gauges to her health: soft and pink when she was feeling good, pale and dry when she was doing poorly.
But Laura was not pretty. There was nothing really wrong about her face: it was just vague. A cruel aunt with a drinking problem used to say that "it lacked character." Her mother once took her to a lady who cut silhouette portraits out of crisp black paper at a shopping mall. Her mother paid the lady five dollars to do one of Laura. The lady had finally given up in exasperation, exclaiming "The child has no profile!"
Laura overheard her mother and father talking about it one time. "I see things in her face," her mother had said.
"What do you mean?" Her father always sounded impatient with her mother.
"I don't know what I mean! I see things in her face and I can never remember exactly what I saw! Shadows and ... white, something so white I feel like she's going to disappear into it. Like clouds ... or a snowbank."
Her father had laughed in astonishment. "You're crazy!"
"You know what I mean!" her mother shouted back. "You don't even look at her directly anymore because you know what I mean! It's not exactly sadness in her, face, not exactly. Just something born with her, something out of place. She was born out of place. My God! She's eleven years old! She's been like this since she was a baby!"
"She's a pretty little girl." Laura could tell her father didn't really mean that.
"What about her eyes? Tell me about her eyes, Dick!"
"What about her eyes? She has nice eyes ..."
"Describe them for me, then! Can you describe them? What color are they? What shape?"
Her father didn't say anything. Soon after the argument he'd stomped out of the house. Laura knew he couldn't describe her eyes. Nobody could.
Laura didn't make judgements when other people talked about her. She just listened. And watched with eyes no one could describe. Eyes no one could remember.
No, it wasn't that she was sad, Laura thought. It wasn't that her parents were mean to her or that she had a terrible life. Her parents weren't ever mean to her and although she didn't know exactly what kind of life she had, she knew it wasn't terrible.
She didn't enjoy things like other kids did. She didn't enjoy playing or watching television or talking to the other kids. She didn't enjoy, really. She had quite thoughts, instead. She had quite thoughts when she pretended to be asleep but was really listening to all he parents' conversations, all their arguments. She had quite thoughts when she watched people. She had quite thoughts when people could not describe her eyes. She had quite thoughts while gazing at Halloween Street, the glowing white house, and all the things that happened there.
She had quiet thoughts pretending that she hadn't been born out of place, that she hadn't been born anyplace at all.
Laura could have been popular, living so close to Halloween Street, seeing it out of her bedroom window. No other kid lived so close or had sucks good view. But of course she wasn't popular. She didn't share Halloween Street. She sat at her desk at school all day and didn't talk about Halloween Street at all.
That last Halloween Laura got dressed to go out. That made her mother happy Laura had never gone trick-or-treating before. Her mother had always encouraged her to go, had made or bought her costumes, taken her to parties at church or school, parties the other kids dressed up for: ghosts and vampires and princesses, giggling and running around with their masks like grotesquely swollen heads. But Laura wouldn't wear a costume. She'd sit solemn-faced, unmoving, until her mother finally gave up and took her home. And she'd never go trick-or-treating, never wear a costume.
After she'd told her mother that she wanted to go out that night her mother had driven her around town desperately trying to find a costume for her. Laura sat impassively on the passenger side, dutifully got out at each store her mother took her to, and, each time shook her head when asked if she liked each of the few remaining costumes.
"I don't know where else we can try, Laura," her mother said, sorting through a pile of mismatched costume pieces at a drugstore in a mall. "It'll be dark in a couple of hours, and so far you haven't liked a thing I've shown you."
Laura reached into the pile and pulled out a cheap face mask. The face was that of a middle-aged, woman, or a young man, cheeks and lips rouged a bright red, eye shadow dark as a bruise, eyebrows a heavy and coarse dark line.
"But, honey. Isn't that a little ..." Laura shoved the mask into her mother's hand, "Well, all right." She picked up a bundle of bright blue cloth from the table. "How about this pretty robe to go with it?" Laura didn't look at the robe. She just nodded and headed for the door, her face already a mask itself.
Laura left the house that night after most of the other trick-or-treaters had come and gone. Her interest in Halloween actually seemed less than ever this year; she stayed in her bedroom as goblins and witches and all manner of stunted, warped creatures came to the front door singly and in groups, giggling and dancing and playing tricks on each other. She could see a few of them over on Halloween Street, not going up to any of the houses but rather running up and down the short street close to the houses in I-dare-you races. But not near as many as in years past.
Now and then her mother would come up and open her door. "Honey, don't you want to leave yet? I swear everybody'll be all out of the goodies if you don't go soon." And each time Laura shook her head, still staring out the window, still watching Halloween Street.
Finally, after most of the other kids had returned to their homes, Laura came down the stairs wearing her best dress and the cheap mask her mother had bought for her.
Her father and mother were in the living room, her mother having retrieved the blue robe from the hall closet.
"She's wearing her best dress, Ann. Besides, it's damned late for her to be going out now."
Her mother eyed her nervously. "I could drive you, honey."
Laura shook her head.
"Well OK, just let me cover your nice dress with the robe. Don't want to get it dirty."
"She just a kid, for chrissake! We can't let her decide!" Her father had dropped his newspaper on the floor. He turned his back on Laura so she wouldn't see his face, wouldn't know how angry he was with both of them. But Laura knew. "And that mask! Looks like a whore's face! Hell, how can she even see? Can't even see her eyes under that." But Laura could see his. All red and sad-looking.
"She's doing something normal for a change," her mother whispered harshly. "Can't you see that? That's more important."
Without a word Laura walked over and pulled the robe out of her mother's arms. After some hesitation, after Laura's father had stomped out of the room, her mother helped her get it on. It was much too large, but her mother gasped "How beautiful!" in exaggerated fashion. Laura walked toward the door. Her mother ran to the door and opened it ahead of her. "Have a good time!" she said in a mock cheery voice. Laura could see the near-panic in the eyes above the distorted grin, and she left without saying goodbye.
A few houses down the sidewalk she pulled the robe off and threw it behind a hedge. She walked on, her head held stiff and erect, the mask's rouge shining bright red in the streetlights, her best dress a soft cream color in the dimness, stirred lightly by the breeze. She walked on to Halloween Street.
She stopped on the bridge and looked down into the creek. A young man's face, a middle-aged woman's face gazed back at her out of dark water and yellow reflections. The mouth seemed to be bleeding.
She walked on to Halloween Street. She was the only one there. The only one to see.
She walked on in her best dress and her shiny mask with eyes no one could see.
The houses on Halloween Street looked the way they always did, empty and dark. Except for the one that glowed the color of clouds, or snow.
The houses on Halloween Street looked their own way, sounded their own way, moved their own way. Lost in their own quiet thoughts. Born out of place.
You could not see their eye.
Laura went up to the white house with the neatly trimmed yard and the flowers that grew without care. Its colour like blowing snow. Its colour like heaven. She went inside.
The old woman gazed out her window as goblins and spooks, pirates and ballerinas crossed the bridge to enter Halloween Street. She bit her lip to make it redder. She rubbed at her ancient, blind eyes, rubbing the dark eyeshadow up into the coarse line of brow. She was not beautiful, but she was not hideous either. Not yet. In any case no one ever remembered her face.
Her fine, snow-white hair was beautiful, and long down her back.
She had the most wonderful house on the street, the only one with flowers, the only one that glowed. It was her home, the place where she belonged. All the children, all the children who dared, came to her house every Halloween for treats.
"Come along," she said to the window, staring out Halloween Street. "Come along," she said, as the treat bags rustled and shifted around her. "You don't remember, do you?" as the first of the giggling goblins knocked at her door. "You've quite forgotten," as the door began to shake from eager goblin fists, eager goblin laughs. "Now scratch your swollen little head, scratch your head. You forgot that first and last, Halloween is for the dead."
Table of Contents
|Introduction: Horror in 1999 THE EDITOR||1|
|Halloween Street STEVE RASNIC TEM||68|
|Others JAMES HERBERT||75|
|Growing Things T.E.D. KLEIN||85|
|Unhasped DAVID J. SCHOW||92|
|The Emperor's Old Bones GEMMA FILES||106|
|The Entertainment RAMSEY CAMPBELL||126|
|Harlequin Valentine NEIL GAIMAN||149|
|The Stunted House TERRY LAMSLEY||159|
|Just Like Eddy KIM NEWMAN||173|
|The Long Hall on the Top Floor CAITLÍN R. KIERNAN||187|
|Lulu THOMAS TESSIER||199|
|The Ballyhooly Boy GRAHAM MASTERTON||221|
|Welcome MICHAEL MARSHALL SMITH||243|
|Burden MICHAEL MARANO||265|
|Naming the Dead PAUL J. McAULEY||280|
|Aftersbock F. PAUL WILSON||302|
|A Fish Story GENE WOLFE||338|
|Jimmy DAVID CASE||343|
|White TIM LEBBON||390|
|Pork Pie Hat PETERSTRAUB||451|
|Tricks & Treats One Night on Halloween Street STEVE RASNIC|
|Necrology: 1999 STEPHEN JONES & KIM NEWMAN||528|
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This group of horror stories was not scary at all.